Despite the endless complaints about the challenges of processing passports through the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) website, the Federal Government has revealed ongoing plans to completely digitalized the process.
The Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola while addressing State House correspondents on Thursday said the move is aimed at ending the use of agents and racketeers within the system.
He noted that the Ministry was working to halt in-person documentation of information before the end of the current administration by May 29, 2023.
“On Passport issuance, we are digitalizing the process and when this process is done, applicants do not need to bring in any documents. You can process the issuance online, completely.
“You don’t need an agent and there will be no racketeering, you have to hack into the system to assess. It is on now, but we will do it before we leave,” he revealed.
The minister admitted that the challenges surrounding the issuance of passports are “human-induced”, but it had not eroded the success of the Service. According to him, over 1.7 million passports were issued to Nigerians in 2022 alone.
“When you look at the number of applications, vis-a-vis the number of passports produced, we are over 80 per cent,” he said.
Aregbesola also addressed the issue of Nigerians in the diaspora currently experiencing difficulty to return home due to expired passport.
He disclosed that the ministry was in talks with the Foreign Affairs Ministry to produce electronic temporary passports where Nigerians in the diaspora with an expired passports can still return home.
“On the temporary passport, we have issues with our sister ministry: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we are solving it, and when it is fully solved, our citizens outside Nigeria, when they have emergencies to come, and they don’t have a current passport.
“We have introduced a regime of returning home with an expired passport but as much as that won’t be a problem for us to take at our registration desk, some airlines might be difficult.
“So, we are discussing with South Africa. They do not permit the use of expired passports as a nation contrary to ICAO (The International Civil Aviation Organisation)’s regulation that says every citizen to a nation, dead or alive cannot be denied entry into his home which is logical.
“But the last time I sent a file to them, they said if the passport is not current, you cannot be taken in or out of their space.
“To avoid that, we introduced what we call temporary electronic passport – a one-way passport to return home. If you just have the data page on your passport, bring it to the embassy, at the rate of an appropriate fee, and you will get home,” he noted.
The minister added that the temporary passport is similar to the regular passport but it has only a page to bring Nigerians home. He however noted, “Unfortunately, we are still in negotiation with the foreign affairs ministry”.
The NIS, since 2015 has 774 offices across the country, and mission abroad, 37 state commands and eight zonal offices.